Today I participated in my first real triathlon. I say first “real” tri because I did one when I was 17, but I’m not sure it should count since I was almost last and rode a Wal-mart special for my 16-mile bike ride. But that is another story altogether. TODAY was GREAT and once I hit that water, I loved every minute!
Jason and I participated in the Buster Britton Triathlon in Birmingham, AL. This consisted of a 400 yard swim, a 13 mile bike ride, and a 3 mile run. Small, but challenging in its own way. Challenging for me because I’m a beginner. A challenging course due to all the hills of the Oak Mountain State Park. Still, I had the most wonderful time, took each section for what it was and surprised myself by how good, strong and relaxed I felt throughout. I still have a LOT to learn and much room for improvement, but that is okay. That is one of the best parts.
We arrived early, picked up our packets, and took our bikes and gear to the transition area where volunteers wrote #278 (my race number) all over me with a #30 on the back of one leg (age) and a B for beginner on the back of the other. For the first time since Jason started this new venture, I got to go INSIDE the transition area and be a part of it all with him.
We walked down to the beach a little early to get wet and warm up, although all I really did was swim around and laugh. Nerves, I guess. My main concerns were the swim and the bike ride. Would I get pulled under by another swimmer? What if they grabbed my sore ankle? Would I get on my bike smoothly? Would I fall over? What would it be like riding with other people? Would I be able to get off my bike at the right time? The run was not a concern at all. That was familiar territory.
The swim turned out to be much easier than I thought. No one got near me (except for one guy who decided to do the back stroke in the wrong direction), and I swam smoothly and confidently around the buoys. Once out of the water, I was thrilled with the experience and ready to face the ride. I ran to the transition area, took a quick sip of water, and put on my gear. Starting with my shoes, my number belt, my sweat band, my sunglasses, and last, my helmet. I took my bike off the rack and jogged it to the bike start.
And once again I was pleased and surprised by the experience. I actually think it was my favorite part. I’ve only had my bike for two weeks. In that two weeks I’ve ridden as often as I can, but I’m still quite new to so many aspects of riding. Still, I enjoyed pushing up the steep hills and then flying down them at what I considered break-neck speed. I grinned like a goofball every time I got to do that, but I couldn’t help myself. I was alive and able and strong. It was a beautiful day and I was out in it trying something brand new. I had to smile.
When I reached the transition area once again, I really was ecstatic. The two portions of the triathlon I’d been most worried about had been successfully completed. Now it was time for the run. I took off my helmet, and changed my shoes. I yanked off my sweat band and quickly replaced it with my visor. I took a quick sip from my water bottle, grabbed my garmin, turned my number belt around and I was off. I heard Jason cheering for me as I exited the transition area for the last time and his voice spurred me on. My legs were tired, but I knew if I kept moving, they’d find their running rhythm. This portion was very hilly, but it was entirely in the shade. That was a huge blessing, for the morning had turned extremely hot.
There were two small glitches in this portion of the race. The first was the sore ankle from last weekend’s trail run. I hadn’t really taken care of it like I should’ve the previous week and it was complaining a little on the uneven road. The other was the fact that I had forgotten to pack a sports bra.
Now, some girls and all guys may not understand this predicament, but some may. The sports bra is THE most important part of my running attire followed closely by my running shoes. I could run a long way without much more…but I do require both of these things.
The Marathon Bar tri top I was sporting was tight and did have a mesh net-like inside that was like a sports bra. Still, I prefer for the girls to be held in place a bit more tightly, and I was not sure how the run was going to feel without my usual support.
It wasn’t so bad. I didn’t really think much about it until the last mile when one of the water stop volunteers offered to splash me with water. I was already wet, but so very hot and I said, “Sure!” The cold water felt GREAT, but what I realized shortly after that was there might be a bit of chafe on…certain areas. Some men and hopefully few women may understand what I mean here. Yikes!
But what else can you do but keep running? So I did. I’ve had chafe in all sorts of fun places over the years. This triathlon business, however, introduced some new ones.
I finished the run strong, despite the chafe and the ankle, and upon my finish came a feeling of triumph, excitement and satisfaction. I had finished the triathlon and what’s more, I enjoyed every moment. Jason quickly found me after I finished and asked me how it was. “It was GREAT!” I said. And it was. It was absolutely perfect for my first foray into the triathlon, and I am already looking forward to my next one.